Oakland mourns after 18-year-old Nia Wilson is killed on BART subway station by alleged white supremacist
According to reports from multiple outlets, 18-year-old Nia Wilson was killed by a white supremacist while on her way home in Oakland on July 22nd. As Teen Vogue’s Taylor Crumpton surmises, the brutal attack on Wilson may be connected to an increase in white nationalist activity in the area.
Wilson’s sister Latifa was also attacked and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for her injuries. 27-year-old John Lee Cowell was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and theft.
According to the East Bay Times, Cowell had a long history of arrests and restraining orders. “ I think he would absolutely kill somebody if he had something against someone,” Cowell’s neighbor Carol Kincaid told the publication.
On July 23, Two social justice organizations in Oakland, Anti-Police Terror Project and Community Ready Corps, hosted a vigil for Wilson at the MacArthur BART station where she was attacked and killed. The vigil turned into a march towards the bar Make Westing, rumored to be the location where a local white nationalist organization the Proud Boys were meeting.
Kenzie Smith, who achieved some level of national notoriety after being subjected to harassment by the police because he dared to be Black and barbequing when “BBQ Becky” called the cops on him, described the loss of Nia Wilson as “a hard loss for us as a community, especially as a young woman of color being slain on a BART.”
Smith was also critical of the way BART was handling their investigation of the incident, and said, “BART was trying to hide something and cover up something, and we’re going to get to the bottom of that as well.” No images of Cowell were made available by the police until the afternoon of July 23, and he was caught due to tips provided by Oakland community members.
Ashley Yates, an Oakland-based organizer described the community trauma, telling Teen Vogue, “It’s indescribable. I mean, I’ve been talking to black women all day basically. Terrified for our mothers, our grandmothers, ourselves personally… An attack like this that is so clearly driven by racial hatred, right, but also just unexpected, and out of nowhere.”
Of course, the police are hesitant to call this killing racially motivated, as BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas stated during a press conference. “Up to this point, we do not have any information that suggests it is race-motivated, but we can’t discount it at this time,” Rojas said. “That is currently still under investigation.”